Dr. Michelle Thaller is the Deputy Director of Science Communications at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as well as being an astronomer that studies binary stars and the life cycles of stars. As a science communicator she writes for the Christian Science Monitor, has appeared on The Universe, a show on the History Channel, and is the host of the podcast Orbital Path with Michelle Thaller.
Her research on the development of stars is rooted in understanding how they are born, live, die, and distribute the materials they have created into the universe for others stars to use in the same continuing pattern. Stars are the only things in the universe that can naturally create elements other than hydrogen by fusing atoms into bigger atoms creating things like carbon, oxygen and all the things humans are made of-and in this way Thaller says she is really trying to answer the question, “where did I come from.”
According to Thaller one of the things that all scientists have in common is imagination-you can’t figure out how to put together an experiment or delve deeper into a subject if you can’t think beyond what is right in front of you. Being able to imagine yourself in a different situation can help you see the world differently and in her case she sometimes sees herself as an Elizabethan dancer. Dancing as part of a group called the Guild of Saint George, Thaller dons period dress that weighs close to thirty pounds and performs at renaissance festivals, museums, and in movies. Thaller says that she enjoys the dances because they are based on patterns and she really enjoys figuring out these patterns and connecting the past with the future.
One of the amazing connections between the past and present is that some of the light that we see coming from stars in the night sky today left these stars at the time Queen Elizabeth was on the throne of England-the past connects to the present and leads us to the future.
Written by Angela Goad